Agencies are often very fast-paced, competitive environments. An agency employee juggles multiple accounts and clients and works well beyond the standard 9 to 5. It’s not unheard of to have days where you have so much work that you don’t have time to eat lunch. However, there are people who love the flurry of activity.
Frankly, agency life isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who thrive on variety and multi-tasking, here are a few ways to boost productivity and keep your coworkers and clients happy.
Stay organized. I cannot stress this enough. It is paramount to find a system that works for you and stick to it. Disorganization in an agency environment often leads to miscommunication, forgotten tasks, wasted time and unhappy clients.
To-do lists are highly valuable. I recommend making a physical paper list of tasks for the day or the week. Compared to using a word document or Evernote, a physical list is right there, on your desk, staring you in the face and becomes more difficult to overlook. And as we all know, there is something inexplicably satisfying about actually crossing off completed assignments.
I also like to have a “waiting-on” list during really busy spells. This is a list of tasks that you know you will have to complete in the future, but for which you are still waiting on feedback or information from a coworker or client. A waiting-on list also enables you to keep your teams on schedule in case someone else drops the ball.
Manage your inbox. This, too, goes back to the core principle of organization. I sort all of my mail into folders by client or project. You should be able to find any piece of past email correspondence in an expedient manner.
In an ideal world, you should try to get your inbox down to zero by the end of the day. When I have a busy day ahead, it can be daunting to walk into the office in the morning to find a slew of unopened emails. I realize that this is not always possible. An empty inbox at the end of the day would be lofty goal for anyone but putting in the effort can begin to pay off over time.
The absolute worst thing you can do is to turn your inbox into your to-do list. Just don’t. It’s not effective and something usually gets missed.
Determine expectations. Make sure you know your role on your team and within your agency. In a busy agency, sometimes people just make the assumption you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing and the level of work you are expected to produce. This is never the case. Discuss responsibilities and expectations, and be as direct as possible.
Sit down with a manager to understand exactly what your role should be on each team you are on, what your manager is looking for from you and what you need to accomplish to advance to the next level.
This is really the only way to ensure that you are meeting and exceeding expectations. Your manager will appreciate you taking the initiative, and it gives you specific goals to work toward.
Never say no. I know this may sound a bit extreme, but unless you are consistently glued to your desk for twelve hours a day, don’t tell a superior that you are not able to take on a new task. In most agencies, it is expected that the work just get done, regardless of what it takes, and typically many projects will roll downhill. Going the extra mile to help out your team and your dedication to the work will be noticed.
However, at the same time be sure to be honest about your workload. If you have a full plate and are given a new assignment, let your coworker know what you have going on and accordingly let them know when you think you will be able to get to their request. Bluntly saying you are too busy is not effective. Everyone is busy.
If you truly feel like you have too much to do, that is a separate conversation you should have with your manager or account lead about your workload.
Don’t get overwhelmed. On the same note, when you get to the point where you are completely frantic, bouncing all over the place, you are going to start getting sloppy — inevitably creating more work for yourself in the long run.
If you start to feel that anxiety creeping up, take a step back, inhale, exhale and prioritize your task list for the day. Don’t worry about the rest of the week; just focus on what needs to get done today.
If you’re not sure which assignments should take priority, just ask your account leads. Communication is the key to your success. It lets your team know what your workload looks like, and, again, reinforces that you are invested and thinking things through.
All of this may seem a bit scary, but sometimes agency life is scary. Most of the time, however, it is exciting and rewarding. You are never bored because you get to interact with different people and do different things every day. You have hard-working colleagues for support who often make excellent happy hour companions with whom you can commiserate after an especially long day.